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How The Graduate Was Made

Every now and again a movie comes along and does more than just entertain–it influences the film industry and society and raises the bar for new movies even higher. The Graduate is one such film. From its release on December 20, 1967, it was met with high critical acclaim and captured the hearts of the public. It was one of the most successful movies ever made and won numerous film awards from Academy Awards to Golden Globes, to Baftas, and even a Grammy.

This film didn’t start out as the blockbuster it is today. Its beginning is just a bit humbler.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It Began With A Book

The Graduate was first born as a novella written by the prolific American novelist Charles Richard Webb in 1963. He took inspiration from his own life post-graduation for the story. The book, like the movie later, was very well received by literary critics and the general public. It was a great success for the young writer. The Graduate was Webb’s first, and subsequently, most famous work. It has continued to be heralded as a great commentary on the tensions and social issues for which the 1960s are famous and for introducing the now archetypical “seductive older woman” character.

Hollywood Gets Involved

It wasn’t long before Hollywood came calling and Webb sold the rights to his story for $20,000. In fact, that is all Webb ever made off the movie version of his story. He was well known for eschewing both fame and fortune and living a much simpler life. He spent a good portion of his life living in a VW Bus, traveling between campgrounds, and homeschooling his children. He even donated the copywriting of The Graduate to charity. He made no profits or royalties off any further adaptations of the story.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It Was A Slow And Difficult Start To The Movie

Once the rights had been sold, producer Lawrence Turman got started hiring the staff for the movie. He chose relatively unknown director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry for the job. Their lack of widespread fame made the film feel like much more of a risk to those providing funding. Turman fully believed in the potential of the film and pushed to share his vision. It eventually paid off and he received the funding he needed and moved forward with production.

Choosing his cast was difficult. Many well-known and famous actors auditioned. Some had to turn down the roles offered them, and others were just not the right fit. Eventually, they filled the iconic roles with both well-known and up-and-coming actors. Anne Bancroft, with an Oscar nomination under her belt, was cast as Mrs. Robinson. Katharine Ross, a relative newcomer was cast as Elaine. And Dustin Hoffman, who had done some theater and guest TV spots up to this time, was cast as Benjamin.


Finally, Lawrence Turman hired Simon and Garfunkel to create the iconic soundtrack for the film. They had a difficult time balancing writing while also touring, but pulled it off and their song “Mrs. Robinson” went on to win a Grammy for the film.

difficult start the graduate movie
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

An Overnight Blockbuster

In spite of all the hurdles Lawrence Turman had to jump to get this film made, he was able to get it done. When it was released first in New York on December 20, 1967, and to the rest of the U.S. the next day, it was an instant success. Critics loved it and so did the American audiences. It made $105 million on just a $3 million budget. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one for Best Director, five Golden Globes, five Bafta awards, and one Grammy. And the players both behind and on-screen all benefitted from the movie. Each of them moved forward in their careers and as we know, Dustin Hoffman became well-known after his performance. This movie was his slingshot into stardom.